Bill C-24, the latest citizenship act to appear before Parliament, is drawing praise from local MP John Weston for two Gibsons’ men for their role in closing the holes for Lost Canadians. However, one of them is less than pleased with the recognition.
Weston, member of Parliament for West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country, lauded both former MP John Reynolds and Don Chapman, head of the Lost Canadians, for their work in bringing citizenship to people previously overlooked.
“I am proud to speak on behalf of my predecessor … John Reynolds, who was an ardent advocate for the Lost Canadians, for the people whose rights will be restored in Bill C-24. I am proud to speak on behalf of constituents who have worked for this day, including people like Don Chapman, who helped John Reynolds on his way to advocate for Lost Canadians,” Weston said during the parliamentary debate on May 28.
Chapman found his singling out for praise ironic in light of his treatment by the Conservatives in the last few years.
On May 12, he and Melynda Jarratt, a New Brunswick expert on Canadian War Brides, were asked to leave a Citizenship Committee meeting on the new bill. Jarratt was originally invited to testify at the meeting and asked Chapman to accompany her.
As head of the Lost Canadians, Chapman’s knowledge is frequently sought by others in the field, but since 2008, subsequent citizenship ministers have shut him out. In this instance Chapman thought his presence changed things for Jarratt.
“It was like, holy shit, Chapman is in town,” he said.
Chapman has campaigned tirelessly for citizenship since as an adult he discovered his own was taken away when he was six.
At that time his father took a job in the U.S. that required the elder Chapman to become an American citizen. The laws at the time made children and wives men’s chattels, which meant all the Chapmans became Americans.
In 2008 Bill C-37 (a bill he collaborated on) corrected the Citizenship Act in Chapman’s favour. But other Lost Canadians such as Jackie Scott, a B.C. woman who didn’t qualify for citizenship because her parents were not married when she was born and illness prevented her from coming to Canada until after her second birthday, were not included in Bill C-37.
Another of Chapman’s crusades is to recognize as Canadians those citizens who fought for the country prior to 1947 when the first citizenship law was enacted — a fact Weston appeared to overlook when he spoke of his late father’s contribution to the Second World War and his uncle Smoky Smith’s record as a Victoria Cross holder.
“I’m sure they would be very proud, considering what we are doing to protect the rights of Canadian citizens and ensuring the rights of a group I am about to speak about, the Lost Canadians,” Weston said.
For his part, Chapman said not having a Canadian citizenship identity prior to 1947 is not respectful to servicemen and women.
“Who is the Unknown Soldier? Is he an unknown nationality if he’s not a Canadian?” Chapman asked.
Most speakers on May 28 spoke in favour of the Lost Canadians aspect of the bill. The MPs acknowledged the problems the past legislation had caused Canadians not covered under C-37.
For Chapman, the redress could have happened much sooner.
“They need to stop thinking of me as a nut case and take note,” Chapman said.
© Coast Reporter